Fr Brian D’Arcy received an Order of the British Empire (OBE) for his work building cross community relations in Northern Ireland in recent decades, at a ceremony in Buckingham Palace on Tuesday.
Fr D’Arcy received the award from the Duke of Cambridge, Prince William, after agreeing to accept the honour last year.
Fr D’Arcy said royal officials were eager to award an OBE to a figure in Northern Ireland due to recent political difficulties between nationalist and unionist communities.
“They were pretty keen that someone would step forward, because the political situation in the North was so bad and nothing was happening and they were just looking to increase some form of cross-community relations and some form of help towards a healing path,” he said.
“It’s nice to get something to celebrate rather than be in grief about,” he told the RTÉ radio Ray D’Arcy show.
The priest said the honour had been offered to him “some time ago,” and then again by royal officials last year. “I texted a few people and said I don’t think you can refuse it,” he said.
“How can you say that you were working towards cross community relations and then refuse to take an award because of whatever,” he said.
“My reservation was I didn’t feel that I should be getting an award for something that I should be doing as a priest anyway,” Fr D’Arcy said. He said he “absolutely” did not have any objection in principle to accepting the honour.
When accepting the OBE, the priest told Prince William he was praying for his family. In recent days the British Royal family has been involved in major turmoil over a decision by Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, to step back as senior royals.
“I said in my particular job I’m fairly used to families having difficulties and everything can be worked out,” Fr D’Arcy told RTÉ radio.